Sandstone stele with a figure of Harihara

From Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, central India, 10th century AD

The composite form of Shiva and Vishnu

By the sixth century AD the sects of both Shiva and Vishnu were well developed. Sometimes they had poor relations, though in icons such as this, which synthesised the two deities, a compromise is clearly visible. Sculptures like this one would have been fitted into a niche in a temple wall.

The main four-armed standing figure is divided vertically through the centre, its proper right side (that is, on the left of this picture) being Shiva and the left, Vishnu.The matted locks of Shiva's hair are built up in an elaborate coif and adorned with a serpent and skull. He holds a rosary and a trident symbolic of his ascetic nature and his power. Shiva's third eye has been carefully incised on Shiva's side of the face. The left side of the image balances these attributes perfectly for Vishnu. In keeping with his regal nature as the preserver of order in the universe, he offsets Shiva's matted locks with a tall kingly crown. In his ear he wears an elaborate earring and his hands hold his attributes of the conch and wheel.

The figures in the background on the right half of the stele can be identified with Shiva and on the left with Vishnu. Prominent on Shiva's side are the god's sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya. On the left side and on top of the stele are Vishnu's ten incarnations.

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More information


M. Willis, 'North India', Arts of Asia, 28 (1998)


Height: 1.650 m
Width: 86.300 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1872.7-1.75


Bridge Collection


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